This is a self portrait, but it was done from a photo. My dad who lives thousands and thousands kilometers from here had a birthday in September. What kind of present can you send to Ukraine when there’s a war going on? The mail service is not working, banks are closed. The only option was to use internet and send virtual present. I haven’t seen my dad for more than two years and wanted him to have a present that made him feel that I was there with him. So a portrait seemed like a good idea.
I went through my recent pictures and nothing was inspiring me except this picture of me in a coral colour of hat that I bought this year. I love hats but have nowhere to wear them. It was a beautiful summer day when my friend asked me to go for an art session in the park and I thought this hat would block the sunlight if I painted for a long time. My friend was late and I was sitting and waiting for her in sweet anticipation of our art session, which was unfortunately cancelled by my friend, but left me this moment when I was in great mood and took a selfi. Usually I don’t like my pictures, but this one had an unusual angle which actually makes it difficult for people to recognize me. When my portrait was ready I showed it to a couple of friends and to my surprise none of them recognized me and I was even told “No, it looks like another woman, not you!” So I was a bit reluctant to send it to my dad, expecting him to react the same way.
Fortunately my dad not only recognized me right away (well he has known me quite a lot longer than any of my friends) and really liked the portrait, regretting only that I couldn’t send him the actual portrait.
Over time I was able to see a few mistakes I have made when I completed my work the very first time. Sometimes I have to be like a sculptor and rebuild the face in my portraits many times until it’s correct, changing the width and the angle of the nose, depth of shadow, shape and width of the face as I saw in the picture. I think I would not be able to explain it if it is somebody else on a picture, but since it is only me, I can do with my face whatever I want. But pastel is not that great a media for editing and fixing mistakes. If a shadow or dark tone has to be corrected to a lighter one, it only allows for the artist tone it up to a degree, after it starts to take paint off rather than add to it, leaving a spot of rubbed dirt. You can see it on my nose. Now it looks like I dipped it in a puddle.
Well, live and learn. The most important thing for me in doing this self portrait was to understand that the sketch should be absolutely correct before applying any color. It also should be done in a light tone, so then the outline will not show through the actual art work. Also it’s best to apply colour the darkest areas last, though books recommend using lightest and darkest tones first and then moving to inter medium colours. It works if you’re absolutely sure that there will be no need to do any corrections with your proportions.